I’d say you start with a quarterback committing - and anytime a QB commits that’s a big deal - and you end with saying that Georgia seemed to have as much or more talent at its 7v7 days as it had Saturday night at the Mark Richt Camp.
In 2016, recruiting camps have become more about being seen and developing relationships than actually working. That’s good and bad. And, quite frankly, if you were a high-level prospect, I’m not sure you wanted any part of the start of the Mark Richt Camp on Saturday night. It was about conditioning. For me and several others the start of camp was too much about conditioning.
For more than 45 minutes new and energetic strength and conditioning coach Mark Hocke ran campers up and down the turf at the Woodruff Practice Fields. I know believe one thing after Saturday night: If Georgia is ever tired in 2015 I will be stunned. I believe in putting your team - your unit of men - through the paces in the off-season. I understand that because I did the 5:45 AM runs where if you showed up on time you were late.
I’m not certain that’s an effective recruiting tool. But then again, that move may not have been about recruiting as much as it was about seeing which of these campers was tough enough to get through that and then perform in position and one-on-one drills.
There were plenty of players at the Mark Richt Camp Saturday night, but it was not full of elite, high-level prospects. Elbert County ATH Mecole Hardman worked on Saturday night at receiver. Liberty County DB Richard LeCounte worked with Jeremy Pruitt all night as did Florida State commit Miami Central (FL) DB Jamel Cook. Those three were the most notable names that I saw working out Saturday night.
LeCounte ran his 40-yard dash once - not twice like most campers. He wasn’t asked to run again after posing a 4.52… a pretty good time for someone with his length.
But much best talent in Athens had street clothes on. Oconee County LB Jaleel Laguins, Miami commitment and Miami Central (FL) LB Waynmon Steed, Miami Central (FL) OL Navaughn Donaldson, McAdory (AL) ATH Malcolm Askew, Florida State commit and Phenix City (AL) ATH Jamal Couch and Phenix City (AL) LB Markail Benton were all in town for the camp, but none of them worked out.
Commits Archer OL E.J. Price, Stephens County OL Ben Cleveland and Coconut Creek (FL) DB Malek Young were all in town as well, but didn’t work out. Price and Cleveland spent a long time with one another as well as with Georgia coach Mark Richt. At one point Price had enough of standing around and pushed and pulled a practice dummy - not knowing one of Georgia’s video cameras was on the top of the dummy. Needless to say he knocked the rather expensive camera to the ground.
Rob Sale didn’t flinch - he started laughing right away. I would have loved to have seen Price and Cleveland work out Saturday night - particularly Price because he’s much more solid physically than he was a year ago at this time when he really performed well at the 2014 Mark Richt Camp. Cleveland may be the most rocked up joker in this state, but Price is likely going to be the one playing tackle, and I was eager to see him have to bend and twist with the defensive linemen and outside linebackers this summer.
Price laughed and giggled all night. He seemed as at home as any recruit I have ever seen at Georgia in the last 15 years.
There were other players at other positions Saturday night… for instance: Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy RB Trevor Gear and Strom Thurmond (SC) RB Chad Gilchrist both worked at running back. Big men worked the camp, too - Gadsden (AL) OL Toryque Bateman, Florida commit Miami Central (FL) DL Eric Mitchell, Carrollton OL Tristan Crowder and Good Council OL Joshua Paschel.
I’d say DeMatha (MD) DL Austin Fontaine, who was in town all day on Saturday, is a player to watch for the future. The interior defensive lineman certainly looks the part. That entering his sophomore year of high school means he’s a guy to keep track of from here on out. He did just fine in one-on-one drills on Saturday night and got plenty of attention from Tracy Rocker during and after the camp.
But for the vast, vast majority of the prospects and players working out are, and this is harsh, simply not on the level of Georgia. To some degree that’s a complement for the way Georgia is recruiting right now. To some degree that is a criticism of being able to get high-quality kids to work out. Its both at the same time.
This was not a great camp - not at all. That means Dawg Night will need to be very, very good.
I heard a slew of times over the last eight days that Dawg Night is the event that all of the higher-level players wanted to visit Georgia for. And while that may be and likely is true - there are only so dates that can be had for camps each year. Georgia needs to maximize these days the way it did with the 7v7 camps. I’m not sure that happened on Saturday.
Consider: Josh Imatorbhebhe, Marlon Character, Braylin Sanders, Owen Pappoe, Dante Demery, Trevor Lawrence, Bailey Hockman, Julian Rochester, Derrick Brown, Charlie Warner, Kyle Davis, Tyler Clark and Jamyest Williams - just to name a few - were in town over the last few sessions. That’s an all-star bunch. That’s a group you have to sign… and many of them worked out the entire time because their teams were in 7v7 situations.
In a way, I’d say the four days of 7v7 really spoiled me.